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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders #BookReview

Title: All the Birds in the Sky | Author: Charlie Jane Anders | Publisher: Tor | Pub. Date: 2016-01-26 | Pages: 316 | ISBN13: 9780765379948 | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Triggers: Bullying | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Self-purchased

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All the Birds in the Sky


Patricia is a witch who can communicate with animals. Laurence is a mad scientist and inventor of the two-second time machine. As teenagers they gravitate towards one another, sharing in the horrors of growing up weird, but their lives take different paths… When they meet again as adults, Laurence is an engineering genius trying to save the world and live up to his reputation in near-future San Francisco. Meanwhile, Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, working hard to prove herself to her fellow magicians and secretly repair the earth’s ever growing ailments. As they attempt to save our future, Laurence and Patricia’s shared past pulls them back together. And though they come from different worlds, when they collide, the witch and the scientist will discover that maybe they understand each other better than anyone.

All the Birds in the Sky cover

 All the Birds in the Sky Review

All the Birds in the Sky is a wildly imaginative, beguiling, thrilling, frustrating, imperfect blend of hard sci fi and magical realist fantasy, all wrapped with enough genre detail to make any nerd happy.

It centres on two characters whose lives cross at various points – Patricia, a witch, and Laurence, a scientist. The book opens with two wonderful chapters on their childhood experiences as unhappy outcasts and the awakening of their respective abilities, both of which come to be massively important (for the fate of the world no less) as the story unfolds. These two central characters are believable and sympathetic, and I ended up becoming very fond of both of them, warts and all.

The supporting cast of characters is perhaps not as skilfully drawn (a few of them blurred into one for me), but what Charlie Jane Anders does create is a believable world where witchcraft and futuristic science co-exist. The world is familiar in many ways (some of the early chapters hardly read like speculative fiction at all), but with wrinkles of magic and gadgetry that somehow just work without ever seeming out of place. Anders gives us a reality where characters can fly and talk to animals and where geeks build wrist mounted time machines, but also where parents often do the wrong things despite good intentions, kids get picked on at school and love is confusing and elusive.

Narratively the book isn’t perfect, there’s a somewhat weird sub-plot that runs throughout involving an assassin which I would happily have seen edited out and other things feel like they are missing, with a somewhat jarring leap from the main characters’ adolescence to adulthood that I felt might have worked better if there had been an intervening chapter on those few missing years. Part of me wants to say that Anders’ talent as a storyteller doesn’t quite manage to keep pace with her wonderful imagination, but in all honesty what problems there are with the book are quickly forgotten in the rush of brilliant ideas and the gripping race to save the planet. For good measure, she throws in some lovely, and convincing, romantic elements; as well as insightful observations on the awkward process of becoming an adult.

“I am unflappable,” Laurence told the bus driver. Who shrugged, as if he’d thought so too, once upon a time, until someone had flapped him.

So whilst All the Birds in the Sky is not without its faults, it’s impossible not to recommend it. If you’re a dreamer, whether those dreams are of spells or spaceships, you’ll find something to delight you here.

This book is available at: Better World Books | Kobo | Amazon | B&N

Published in4 RatedFantasy Book ReviewsScience Fiction Book Reviews
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  1. Is the highlighted in extra bold white sentences a choice of the reviewer or the site overall?

    • Which ones get selected? A choice of the reviewer. It’s done to break up the text.

      • Ok, thanks.

        Just from my perspective it makes it VERY hard to pay attention as I’m reading along.

        • Yeah, it’s different for everyone. For a lot of people, especially people who skim a lot, the emboldening keeps the attention and helps out. (I’m one of them.) But it’s not for everyone.

    • Though I think I might have done these ones as he’s still in training. Don’t remember.

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